Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Some fun titles are hitting shelves today, and not a single one of them rocked the box office. Of course, some of them never had the chance… but Tower Heist? Pretty sure that was intended to be a hit. Other releases this week include the Elizabeth Olsen stunner Martha Marcy May Marlene, the Korean action epic War of the Arrows, the bland Channing Tatum (redundancy alert!) thriller Son of No One, and more!
As an added bonus one of the eleven entries below has been contributed by the highly educated and spry Landon Palmer! Can you guess which one?
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A couple dealing with marital issues heads to a remote island to save their relationship, but when a stranger washes up onshore with a fantastical tale of a worldwide plague the three of them enter into a deadly game of survival.This British thriller takes major cues from the superior Dead Calm, but it manages to create solid suspense, tension and uncertainty of its own. Cillian Murphy and Jamie Bell give strong, convincing performances as the husband and stranger, respectively, but Thandie Newton doesn’t fare as well. Still, this is the kind of thriller that deserves better than to get lost in the shuffle. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: The twins got the billions, but she got the talent (and looks)…
Why Rent? A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes from a mildly oppressive cult and moves in with her older sister and her husband, but physical freedom doesn’t guarantee emotional safety. She begins questioning her surroundings, but is she just mentally damaged or has the cult’s charismatic leader (John Hawkes) actually come to take her back? Olsen really does give a powerful performance here, and the film becomes a real slowburn of suspense as it builds towards a real conversation-starter of a conclusion. Writer/director Sean Durkin’s film is a highly atmospheric thriller about paranoia, madness and unbreakable bonds.
Pitch: Cupid ain’t got nothing on this son of a bitch…
Why Buy? The first half of the 17th century sees an attack on Korean soil by the Chinese empire, and when a group of hostages are taken by the invaders two young men head after them with rescue on their mind. Lucky for them one of the men is an expert marksman with the bow and arrow, but will skill and passion be enough to defeat a much larger enemy? This historical action film is loaded with some pretty stellar action sequences, both up close and via ranged weapons, but it pales beside the film’s final thirty minutes. That third act is essentially one long chase scene filled with combat, wicked archery shots and stunning cinematography.
Pitch: First Martin Sheen’s son Charlie exploded like a balloon full of meat, and now Emilio dies while hiking in France…
Why Buy? An American doctor (Martin Sheen) gets word that his only child (Emilio Estevez) has died while hiking the “Way of St. James” in Europe, and he soon finds himself attempting to complete the journey in his son’s name. Estevez wrote and directed this simple but inspiring little tale about the lives we lead and the lives we’re missing. The core story of loss has some real emotional power, but the meat of the story exists in the people Sheen meets and the enlightenment he finds along the way. I expected something cheesy and more fitting of a movie of the week, but while viewers looking for a spiritual angle will find one even the more grounded among us will have our spirits lifted by this man’s journey. It’s a comfort film, no doubt, but one you’ll want to share with friends and family.
Pitch: Bon Iver is to mumblecore as The Ramones are to…
Why Rent? For a brief period during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a dilapidated downtown NYC gave birth to a bustling subculture of aggressive creativity known as No Wave. Celine Danhier’s documentary provides an in-depth look at the incredible moment in which people like Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Vincent Gallo, and John Waters made gritty 8mm films, The Ramones and Blondie played loud punk rock, and Jean-Michel Basquiat painted the walls nearby. Like many docs about film “movements,” Blank City often feels like a one-time viewing clip show that only scratches the surface of a greater library of work, but what a clip show it is.
Pitch: This documentary is so punk it blurs out the vagina shot…
Why Rent? Marian Anderson was a punk star from the San Francisco music scene, and as lead singer of The Insaints she became something of a legend for her antics onstage and off throughout the 90s. Her songs were deeply personal and appropriately filled with rage, but her non-vocal antics which sometimes included nudity, urinating on the audience, and the mishandling of bananas quickly took the limelight. Her tragic childhood, difficult life and sad death are the focus of this doc. The punk genre is not something that appeals to me (unless you count borderline groups like late career Green Day or The Offspring which you probably shouldn’t), but Marian’s life was a fascinating one filled with pain and beauty, and it makes for a compelling story.
Pitch: It’s at the cross streets of Overbite Ave and Fookin Midget Way…
Why Rent? A recently paroled ex-con (Colin Farrell) is hired as a bodyguard for a young, reclusive actress (Keira Knightley), but what should have been an easy job turns deadly when his criminal past catches up to them both. Screenwriter William Monahan makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of Ken Bruen’s slim novel, and he fills it with a spectacular supporting cast including Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, David Thewlis, Ben Chaplin and Anna Friel. Knightley’s character is a bit too thinly drawn to make the inevitable romance very compelling, but Farrell brings charisma and pathos to his role. The ending is a unfortunately a pretty weak let down, but until that point the film manages to be an engaging little crime drama.
Pitch: If TV is to be believed all hospitals are run by sex-starved pill-poppers…
Why Rent? Jackie (Edie Falco) is a nurse with an addiction. Well, two addictions. She loves her pills, and she loves being on the receiving end of a good, fleshy injection. That’s gross, but what I’m trying to say is she’s having relations outside of her marriage. Season two ended with her secrets being discovered by her husband and best friend, but for someone as practiced at deception as Jackie this is just one more necessary hurdle. Falco has never been finer than she is here as a sarcastic but capable nurse who makes rules just so she can break them, and the supporting cast that surrounds her are almost as entertaining.
Pitch: “Oh shit, you guys ever see Boys Don’t Cry? When Hilary Swank plays that dude? That scared the shit out of me…”
Why Rent? A group of 99%-ers devise a plan to steal back their pensions from the Wall Street billionaire (Alan Alda) who swindled it all away. Brett Ratner’s latest is Ocean’s 11-lite, which, if you’ve seen Ocean’s 11 you know means this is lighter than air. There are some laughs to be found, but with a cast like this (Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni) there really should have been a lot more. Still, Affleck and Peña deliver some great lines. Headliners Stiller and Murphy (who talks like the donkey from Shrek all through this for some reason) are far less successful on the comedy front.
Pitch: Truth in advertising…
Why Avoid? A has-been actress (Beth Broderick) who now spends her days shilling for her husband’s chain of air-conditioning stores decides to off him after he becomes too charitable with their savings. She would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for her own meddling kids. This is essentially a low budget black comedy, but while it’s filled with capable and recognizable faces (including Chris Mulkey, Whitney Able, Greg Proops and others) it just never manages to be funny. The one gag that works involves Dee Wallace, but you have to wait the whole movie for it. Skip it and watch Swimming With Sharks instead.
Pitch: I’d put my kid up for adoption too if he was this boring…
Why Avoid? A rookie cop (Channing Tatum) finds himself immersed in a decades-old crime that holds a very personal connection to his own childhood. The cast alone should have made this a watchable thriller as names like Ray Liotta, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Tracey Morgan, and Katie Holmes seem like an interesting and eclectic bunch, but sadly they can’t salvage this disaster from stinking up your TV. The central story is so uninteresting that you expect something bigger is hiding around the next bend, but that corner is never turned. As weak as that story is though the narrative structure does it no favors by jumping through time too soon and too frequently resulting in a lack of suspense or curiosity. Skip it and watch Orphan instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion)
The Fades: Season One
Puss In Boots
Return to Bloodfart Lake
World on a Wire (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?